Page 26 - WTP VOl. IX #1
P. 26

 By the time I met Aaron, the top of his head was already turning to smoke. His right hand was totally gone, and his arm from just below his elbow up was pretty much smoke, though it was firm flesh by the time that it got to his shoulder. I tried not to look too closely at his upper arm, where the transi- tion happened. Most of the people in the office were pretty cool about it. At least I thought so. If Aaron didn’t, then he never said anything about it. I mean, Michelle seemed to want to know about Aaron, but she didn’t ask directly. It was always some indirect question. Gerry didn’t ask any questions about it, but then Gerry only ever talks about wrestling or movies. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Gerry ask a single person in the office about their personal life. Aaron never seemed to listen to Gerry, which is probably the best strategy. Too many people get sucked into a conversa- tion with him.
In terms of Aaron’s output and productivity and stuff, I was kind of surprised. We’d had this staff meeting about Aaron, telling us what we should expect and how we should help. Like that we shouldn’t expect him to carry heavy stacks of paper, because one of his arms was partially smoke. I guess they just wanted
us to be prepared for anything, but they made it sound like he was going to be totally helpless. Once Aaron got to the office, I saw that he was a little slow at typing (which was totally understandable, given his situation), but he never made us get behind, and I even saw him helping other people with different workarounds so they could do things faster.
It was a couple of weeks in when I was eating in the breakroom and Aaron came in. We sat quietly for a little bit, me eating a sandwich, him taking out a salad and a roll. I realized that I’d expected the smoke to smell or something, but I didn’t smell anything. After a bit, I said, “How are you liking it here?”
Aaron mixed his salad a bit before answering. “Well,” he said, “most of the folks here seem nice, and the work isn’t that different from the last place. So pretty decent, I guess.”
I took a sip of coffee. “Yeah, some of the people can be a little much, but if you stick to the basic work for the day, things usually are decent.”
Aaron nodded. The smoke on the top of his head started to form a mini cloud, then it went back into
its regular wisps. “How long have you been working here?”
I had to think about it. “About five years, I guess. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long.”
“Time flies.” He ate some salad, I ate some chips. It was kind of nice. He wasn’t super chatty, but it
didn’t feel awkward. Like when Mark would be in
the breakroom, and he’d say one thing, then he’d be quiet, and you knew that he felt like he’d said some- thing stupid, but you also didn’t know what to say to make him feel less awkward. With Aaron, there was a kind of calm. Maybe his smoke issue made him have
a special kind of peace or something. Or that’s what I guessed at the time. Either way, it was relaxing to just sit in the breakroom. Like an actual break.
I came to appreciate Aaron in other ways, too. Not that we were that close, but he did his work, he was pleasant. All in all, he was cool to have in the of-
fice. So I was surprised but happy to see him at the grocery store one day. He was over by produce, and I was closer to frozen foods, but it was easy to see him, what with the smoke and all. I was looking up and down the aisles, trying to remember if there was any- thing that I didn’t have on my list but that I’d want later. I tried to decide if I should go to Aaron to say
hi right away or if I should just wait until we ran into each other naturally. I started to head over his way when I saw this group of three teenage boys walk over towards him. They were kind of laughing, and I knew that they were going to be dicks.
A little debate started in my brain. One part said that the kids would probably laugh at a distance, and if I didn’t disturb them, then everything would be fine. Another part told me that I was only guessing that because I was looking for an excuse to be a coward.
I kept pushing my cart, but I moved pretty slowly. I didn’t totally catch what the kids were saying, but they were laughing a lot. As I came to a complete stop, one of the teenagers went over to Aaron. Aaron
Something in the Air
Zeke JaRvis

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